Skip to comments.NJ Governor James E. McGreevey hires a dozen "Pretty Boys", Big jobs: No experience needed
Posted on 10/13/2004 10:07:33 PM PDT by Coleus
Big jobs: No experience needed
|Sunday, October 10, 2004|
It's no surprise that Sean Murray-Nolan's job title - "executive director of the office of the governor of New Jersey" - seemed rather exalted for a 27-year-old.
He made it up.
And if you ask Murray-Nolan's colleagues what his $78,000-a-year job actually entailed, you are met with silence. Then chuckling.
"Well, he may have had that title but it didn't mean squat,'' said one former senior aide to Governor McGreevey.
Two former high-ranking McGreevey aides say Murray-Nolan was one of several governor's office employees who were told to fabricate high-sounding - and meaningless - job titles after the Golan Cipel scandal first bloomed in the spring of 2002.
Just months after Sept. 11, New Jerseyans were stunned to discover that McGreevey had anointed the poorly qualified Cipel - then a 33-year-old Israeli poet and public relations man - as his homeland security adviser.
Faced with a barrage of press inquiries about the qualifications of McGreevey's other aides, the sources said, former Chief of Staff Gary Taffet simply told the young, green staffers who came to office with the former Woodbridge mayor to make up their own job titles and job descriptions.
"The papers had made requests and we had to come up with something; it got a bit out of hand,'' said one former senior aide to McGreevey. "Nothing was ever announced. It was all very hush-hush."
Secretive personnel gimmicks were not limited to Murray-Nolan or Cipel, who forced McGreevey's resignation by threatening a sexual harassment suit against the gay governor.
A review by The Record of the employment practices in the governor's office shows that McGreevey hired and promoted youthful associates with little regard to qualification, experience, education or the impact on the dwindling state coffers:
Many in the cadre of young, eager McGreevey campaign workers who had little or no prior experience ascended to management positions where they supervised offices with scores of employees and multimillion-dollar budgets.
Labor Commissioner Kevin McCabe, 32, had few qualifications when he was appointed deputy labor commissioner three years earlier, and then was promoted to the top spot at the Cabinet-level agency.
Kevin Hagan left his job as the governor's assistant for two months in 2002 to work on the campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg. During that time, he kept his generous state health benefits.
'Yearlong job interview'
Administration officials defended McGreevey's hiring practices, saying everyone on the governor's staff was more than qualified. The young employees working for McGreevey proved themselves to be loyal, hardworking and responsible, both in Woodbridge and during political campaigns, said Micah Rasmussen, the governor's spokesman.
"A campaign is a yearlong job interview," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen pointed out that other recent governors hired young, bright people, and he contended that the overall age of McGreevey's hires is not significantly younger than those of other governors.
"The McGreevey administration is a group of dedicated, hardworking and talented people who are motivated by the governor's well-known work ethic," Rasmussen said. "As is always the case in every government, these are public-minded people who sacrifice their time, their personal lives and often their ability to make more lucrative livings in the private sector."
Some of the young people working in McGreevey's administration had impressive backgrounds that included graduate degrees from top universities and experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
These employees fit the model of young, idealistic professionals in the early stages of their political careers, a model exemplified by McGreevey himself. At 25, the governor graduated from Georgetown University with a law degree and became an assistant prosecutor in Middlesex County. At 28, he was executive director of the state parole board.
But people who worked closely with the Governor's Office say some of McGreevey's hiring choices - like his aggressive fund-raising practices - exploded the norms and limits followed by his predecessors. They said McGreevey's decision to entrust his own office to inexperienced staffers with little knowledge of Trenton mirrored the governor's own naiveté.
"From the beginning, he thought he could run the state the same way he ran Woodbridge,'' said Pete McDonough, a former press secretary for Christie Whitman when she was governor. "But it's a whole different ballgame here. You need to have seasoned people who understand the Legislature.''
Many lawmakers chafed at dealing with the young aides.
"It was frustrating when you wanted to talk to someone about policy and you're talking to someone about policy who was born when Jimmy Carter was president," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer. "You realize that it was hard for adults to relate to them."
The lawmakers said the administration's naivete was epitomized by two men, Chief of Staff Gary Taffet, 38, who worked with McGreevey in Woodbridge, and former chief counsel Paul Levinsohn, 36, the chief fund-raiser for McGreevey's campaign. Both men resigned at the end of 2002 amid a growing scandal over a billboard business they sold for $4.4 million shortly before McGreevey took office.
Federal investigators are looking into whether Taffet and Levinsohn traded on their political connections. The men have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Former Gov. Jim Florio, a fellow Democrat, joked about the youth of McGreevey's staff at the 2002 Legislative Correspondents' Dinner, an evening event where politicians and journalists playfully needle each other.
"Most of his staff is not here tonight," Florio said. "It's past their bedtimes.
"The staff people, of course, come to work in the morning on their big wheels, carrying their Spider Man lunch baskets. ... Then after naptime there's a Nintendo tournament."
But beneath all the jokes, the people who were closest to McGreevey had a darker concern. Several former senior staffers said McGreevey's penchant to surround himself with young men of questionable experience only reinforced dark rumors that Jim McGreevey was a gay man on the make.
"I can tell you that this fear literally kept us up at night,'' said one ex-aide. "Everyone knew about the rumors. And here's the governor hiring all these relatively young boys. It's not that any of these were gay - they really weren't. It was the appearance, and that was what looked bad.''
Young staffers well paid
The Record researched this article by reviewing the work histories of more than 40 workers in the 2001 McGreevey campaign and the Democratic State Committee who went on to get jobs in the administration. Of this group, the newspaper then examined employees who were 35 or younger and who had salaries of $50,000 or more.
Despite requests from The Record, the McGreevey administration would release résumés only for employees who were hired after July 2002, when the governor issued an executive order requiring that all executive branch résumés be available upon request.
Governor's Office personnel records show that 11 staffers whose average age was 28 when McGreevey took the reins received raises averaging more than $19,000 over the last three years. The average current salary for those workers is more than $77,000 a year.
The average New Jersey state worker is 44 years old, makes $58,800 and has had 12 years of service, according to state data for 2003.
Kevin McCabe, 32, a longtime McGreevey loyalist who was his chief of staff in Woodbridge, became commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor. He succeeded Albert Kroll, a nationally recognized labor attorney who represented the AFL-CIO and was a law partner of Middlesex County Democratic Party boss John Lynch.
McGreevey appointed McCabe to the $115,000-a-year post as deputy labor commissioner in 2002. After Kroll departed earlier this year, McCabe was confirmed as labor commissioner in June by the Senate. He received a $26,000 increase in pay.
While serving as the top manager of the $462 million agency and its 3,800 employees, McCabe is also attending Rutgers part time to earn an MBA degree. He declined to be interviewed for this article.
Jason Kirin, 27, also rose quickly under McGreevey. Kirin, who served as McGreevey's personal aide in the early days of the administration, went from earning $65,000 in that job to $115,000 now as chief of staff for the Commerce and Economic Growth Commission.
On his way to Commerce, Kirin also stopped at the Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Office of Counter-Terrorism, where he served as chief of staff despite having no experience in counter-terrorism.
State personnel guidelines call for a chief of staff serving a Cabinet officer to have a bachelor's degree and six years of managerial experience in public administration, or five years of experience and a graduate degree in business or public administration. Kirin earned a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1999. He is attending classes at Rutgers to receive a master's in public administration.
Kirin declined to comment for this story.
But McGreevey's chief of staff, Jamie Fox, defended Kirin's rapid advancement, arguing that his close work with McGreevey gave him an invaluable introduction to the operation of government.
"Because someone is young and makes money doesn't mean they didn't get ahead by merit," Fox said. "This kid - and he is a kid, a young man - is a very bright guy who has earned everything he has. If you travel with the governor, you know everybody in the state of New Jersey. Through osmosis alone, you pick up skills."
Helping with homework
For other employees, McGreevey served as a kind of mentor.
Theodore Pedersen, 26, started working for McGreevey as an intern in Woodbridge Township Hall in 2000. Two days before the governor's inauguration, he was given a $24,000-a-year job as a computer operator in Woodbridge. On the day McGreevey took the oath of office, Pedersen resigned his township job and was given a $55,000 position as an aide to the governor.
Sources said McGreevey helped Pedersen with his college homework. At one point, a source said, McGreevey called state Treasurer John McCormac with a question about Pedersen's finance coursework. Another source said Pedersen was the center of attention when McGreevey held a party for staff members at the governor's house at Island Beach State Park two years ago.
"It was bizarre. There was a big birthday cake and they sang 'Happy Birthday to Teddy.' I didn't know who he [Teddy] was," said an administration official who attended the party.
Pedersen, who now works for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority earning $56,540, did not return calls for comment.
Curtis Bashaw, who was appointed CRDA's executive director by McGreevey, said he hired Pedersen because he needed a diligent worker, not because McGreevey pulled any strings. "There was no pressure here to do anything special for this person," Bashaw said. "I wanted someone with that kind of experience and also someone with some knowledge of how the State House works."
Meghan Bitenc, 25, knows how two statehouses work - the one in Trenton and the one in Madison, Wis.
In early 2001, Bitenc was among four-dozen legislative workers implicated in a Wisconsin political scandal, where state employees were accused of political fund raising while working at their state jobs. Bitenc was not charged with wrongdoing, but signed an immunity agreement to testify in an investigation.
In mid-2001, Bitenc landed a job as a paid staffer with the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, where she helped oversee McGreevey's election efforts in Ocean County. After his election, Bitenc became a $55,000-a-year aide to McGreevey, two weeks shy of her 23rd birthday. By November 2003, she was earning $60,000 as the governor's director of scheduling.
Bitenc resigned from her job in the Governor's Office on June 4, two months before McGreevey announced his own resignation, and she was rehired by the Democratic State Committee.
Kevin Hagan, 28, the committee's executive director, who hired Bitenc, said he knew about her involvement in the Wisconsin controversy. "I wasn't worried about it," he said.
Bitenc's experience in McGreevey's office proved she could perform well in her current job as a liaison between the party and Democratic mayors and constituent groups, Hagan said.
"The director of scheduling needs to be a workaholic who is organized, disciplined, who has to be able to manage the process," Hagan said. "Jim McGreevey's life and functioning couldn't go on if she didn't do what she did. Meghan has a proven track record of getting the job done."
Bitenc did not respond to several requests for an interview.
Fighting a perception
Hagan, a McGreevey confidant, is himself a noteworthy member of the circle of young leaders in Trenton. He worked in Woodbridge Township Hall before serving as political director of McGreevey's campaign. In November 2001, he joined the governor's transition team in the Treasury Department, earning $65,000 a year.
After McGreevey's inauguration, Hagan became the governor's deputy chief of staff, with the responsibility of constituent relations. His pay was bumped to $95,000.
In October and November 2002, Hagan took an unpaid leave to run the last-minute campaign of Lautenberg, who stepped into the Senate race when former Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped out. Lautenberg won handily. After a brief return to the Governor's Office last year, Hagan joined the party leadership.
Hagan said he's been fighting the perception that he lacks the experience for his job since he became involved in the rough-and-tumble world of Garden State politics.
"The biggest hurdle is people not knowing whether you can do the job you've been hired to get done. The only way to prove it is to do it, and if that means coming in early and leaving late, then you do it," Hagan said. "Experience prepares you and gives you an advantage, but that doesn't mean that someone with less experience can't do as good a job."
Hagan noted that Brian Nelson, executive director of the Republican State Committee, is 26. "I think New Jersey has a proven track record of young people who are competent and able to do the job," he said.
James Gee, 31, a deputy chief of staff in McGreevey's office, also has strong ties to the party. A former chief of staff for Democratic State Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Gee began work on McGreevey's transition in late 2001 at a salary of $60,000. Three years later, he earns more than $108,000 a year.
Asked to provide a résumé to The Record, McGreevey officials provided a biography published in Fitzgerald's Legislative Manual that said Gee graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1994 with a degree in political science. But Morehouse officials said that while he attended the college, he didn't graduate.
In October 2003, at the height of the election season, Gee took a leave of absence from state government. He returned to the State House on Nov. 5, 2003 - after Democrats clobbered the GOP and assumed control of both houses of the Legislature. Three months later, Gee got a $10,000 raise. Now Gee is on leave again to work with Citizen Change, a group founded by rap artist Sean "P. Diddy" Combs to encourage young people to vote.
Gee acknowledged the published biography was incorrect, saying that he was still short credits to graduate - 111 credits short. "I'm at Thomas Edison State College enrolled to try to take care of that," he said.
Asked if taxpayers should be concerned that a deputy chief of staff didn't have a college degree, he said his experience speaks for itself. Gee said he's been involved in 26 political campaigns, seven as campaign director.
"You find another 30-year-old African-American with a relationship with every legislator," he said. "I know this business backwards and forwards. No questions about my qualifications. And I don't think any taxpayers would feel that way, either."
Just as there is a revolving door between the State House and the Democratic State Committee, so are there channels linking New Jersey government, the Port Authority and other similar quasi-independent agencies.
Tara Dowdell, 28, worked on McGreevey's campaign before landing a $70,000-a-year job as a governor's aide once her boss was sworn in. Less than a year later, she received a $15,000 raise. Last year, she left the state and got a job at the Port Authority. A recent press release lists Dowdell as being a "senior manager for government relations." Port Authority officials refused to disclose her salary, or the salaries of other former McGreevey staffers.
Joshua Henne, 26, worked on McGreevey's campaign before becoming a governor's aide. A 2000 Emory University graduate with no experience outside of New Jersey political campaigns and government, he held the $45,000-a-year aide position for less than nine months before moving to the Board of Public Utilities. He now makes $60,000.
The Board of Public Utilities also provided a berth to Eliot Mizrachi, who once worked as an aide to Golan Cipel on Jewish outreach in the Governor's Office. Mizrachi earned $45,000 in the Governor's Office and now earns $51,500 as a public information officer.
I bet this scratches the tip of the iceberg, I wonder how much quiet money had to be paid out too?
the garden state, the garbage state, the cannibal state, the tax-and-spend state, the gun-control state, the abortion state, the pretty-boy state, the gay-boy state.
Well... I guess that "Governor's Personal Boy-Toy" doesn't sound very good on a business card.
Are you sure you mean Big jobs? >>>
Title should have read:
Big ---- :No experience needed
I will teach you.
NJ, corrupt as ever
NJ, corrupt as ever
|Thursday, October 14, 2004|
JIM MCGREEVEY has been presiding over a governmental Kiddie Corps. He has placed young, inexperienced assistants in important, high-salaried jobs. Some have worked hard and done pretty well. One who didn't was Golan Cipel.
When the governor announced in August that he was gay and would resign, he said he wanted to squelch threats and extortion attempts. Aides said such threats were made by Cipel. They said he was McGreevey's partner in a homosexual, extramarital affair gone sour.
The governor had put him on the state payroll as homeland security adviser, at a salary of $110,000. Attention focused on the sexual aspect of the relationship, but it turns out that the managerial part was also problematic.
Cipel was clearly unqualified for the job, but his appointment was assumed in retrospect to be an aberration. That is not quite the case, as was made clear Sunday in a Record story by reporters John Dyer, Clint Riley, and Jeff Pillets.
The reporters established a pattern in which McGreevey installed young aides, often drivers and stump assistants, in posts with significant responsibilities, although they lacked prescribed qualifications. No one has suggested that aside from Cipel any of them shared McGreevey's sexual orientation.
The reporters identified 11 staffers - two of them women - whose average age was 28 when McGreevey took office three years ago. They have received raises averaging $19,000 since then. Despite budget constraints, their current average salary is $77,000.
By comparison, the typical state employee is 44 years old, is paid $58,800, and has put in 12 years on the job. The governor's chief of staff, Jamie Fox, argues that just because someone is young does not mean he is incapable of serious work. He defends Jason Kirin, for example, as a fellow who is very bright and capable.
Kirin, now 27, started three years ago as the governor's personal assistant, paid $65,000. The two traveled the state together. Fox says that in that situation, a government novice learns fast. "Through osmosis alone, you pick up skills," he says. Some people learn through the School of Hard Knocks. Our Jim was headmaster of a School of Osmosis.
Kirin went from gubernatorial aide to a job in the Department of Transportation and then, shades of Golan Cipel, to the New Jersey Office of Counter-Terrorism, where he served as chief of staff despite having no experience in counter-terrorism. He recently moved again, becoming chief of staff for the scandal-tainted Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, now under new management.
State personnel guidelines say a chief of staff serving a Cabinet-level officer should have a bachelor's degree and six years of managerial experience in public administration, or five years of experience and a graduate degree in business or public administration. Kirin has a bachelor's degree in sociology. He is studying at Rutgers for a master's in public administration.
Perhaps he is a wunderkind. There ought to be room in any organization for a gifted person who lacks some formal credentials. But could there be 11 prodigies in one administration? Here is Kevin McCabe, now 32 and commissioner of labor. He has worked for McGreevey for years, starting in Woodbridge, where he served as driver for McGreevey when he was mayor, eventually becoming Town Hall chief of staff. When the boss moved on to the State House, he took McCabe with him, as deputy labor commissioner. That job paid $115,000.
The commissioner of labor then was Albert Kroll, 53, a nationally recognized labor lawyer. He quit last spring. McGreevey nominated McCabe as his replacement. McCabe was confirmed by the Senate in June. He is running a department with 3,800 employees and a state budget of $94 million, plus $370 million in federal funds. His salary is $141,000. Like Kirin, he is working toward a master's degree at Rutgers.
McGreevey is pressing his prospective successor, Richard Codey, to retain McCabe. Codey is resisting. McGreevey was so taken with another young aide, who served as his weekend assistant, that he gave him a room of his own in Drumthwacket, the executive mansion. Aside from the question of qualifications, given the context of McGreevey's resignation, the managerial problem here, as in other cases, is that recognition and eventual advancement in the administration has often depended on simple proximity to the governor. Not a good thing.Friends in high places
|Wednesday, October 13, 2004|
A LACK of experience didn't keep some young people from doing very well in Governor McGreevey's administration.
In fact, some of the governor's young aides were encouraged to make up job titles, according to The Record's investigation published on Sunday. That's how one 27-year-old came to be "executive director of the office of the governor of New Jersey." The title was fake, but the salary was real: $78,000 a year.
Staff Writers John Dyer, Clint Riley and Jeff Pillets found that the governor "hired and promoted youthful associates with little regard to qualification, experience, education or the impact on the dwindling state coffers." Some of these people went straight from campaign work to high management positions in the McGreevey administration. Few had any substantive knowledge of state government.
Labor Commissioner Kevin McCabe, for example, had been Mr. McGreevey's chief of staff when he was mayor of Woodbridge. He became deputy labor commissioner two years ago, and then commissioner. Now 32, he earns $141,000, oversees a department with a $462 million budget and 3,800 employees - and is attending Rutgers part time to earn an MBA.
The governor's office says there is nothing wrong with hiring bright young people, something previous administrations have done. But there are limits, such as entrusting the governor's own office to inexperienced staffers. One woman, who had been implicated in a political scandal while working in Wisconsin, became a $55,000-a-year aide to Mr. McGreevey just before she turned 23. Eventually, she was making $60,000 as the governor's director of scheduling.
Another aide is on leave from his post as a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, a job that pays $108,000 a year. He lists a college degree as part of his background, but apparently still needs some credits to graduate.
Mr. McGreevey, who is making farewell appearances these days as he prepares to resign next month, made a few appointment whoppers as governor, including the now infamous appointment of the highly unqualified Golan Cipel as his homeland security adviser. The rest is history.
The appointments discussed here are not about personal relationships with the governor. They are about cronyism, about not using good judgment. Cronyism usually negates the opportunity to surround oneself with the best qualified staff possible.
Jokes were made about Mr. McGreevey's appointment of so many young staffers, and some legislators complained about dealing with aides with so little experience on policy issues.
Surely, more experienced and qualified people could have been persuaded to accept the six-figure salaries some of the young aides were making.
It's an understatement now, but Mr. McGreevey should have known better.
And that experience could translate into drugs, possibly?
I just know they will.
When John Kerry chose to inject Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter into the presidential debate as an example of a gay person who is proud of who she is, maybe George W. Bush should've used James McGreevey as an example of how a Democrat politician can become outrageously corrupt when he refuses to acknowledge who he is and chooses to use taxpayer money to fund his sexual preference and behavior.
Because so many of them are mind numbed robots from living under communist rule. NJ is your basic welfare state where the unions control the politicians.
Where's the PICTURES????
Pedersen up-close: Back in 2005, news agencies reported it took repeated phone calls-—to no avail-—followed by filing formal Open Public Records Act request to get information on McGreeveys appointee to the CRDA-—Theodore Pedersen.
News organizations asking for a resume for Pedersen were referred to Philadelphia lawyer Tom Gallagher, who refused comment. Why does a 26-year-old government employee on the public payroll need a high-profile Philadelphia lawyer?
Finally getting access to it, news reports on Pedersen’s resume says he came to the governor’s office from McGreevey’s election campaign-—one of the 8000 young friends McGreevey put on the public payroll.
Records show Pedersen was paid $8,000 in 2001 and $1,519 in 2000. Woodbridge records show Pedersen was paid $27,200 in 2000, $18,758 in 2001 and $1,772 in 2002 as a computer technician. Pedersens last day in Woodbridge was the day before McGreevey took the oath of office. Circa July 2004, one month before McGreevey announced he is leaving because of a gay affair, Pedersen went to CRDA as a $216-a-day intern.
A month later, he was hired as CRDAs assistant director at $56,595.
“That’s because he did a great job,” said Curtis Bashaw, CRDA chief.
(Duh.......a good job at what?)
According to a publication titled Exit Zero, on the July 4th weekend, McGreevey was in Cape May cavorting at Bashaw’s Jackson Street home, which is located at Bashaws Congress Hall Hotel.
Earlier McGreevey appointed his pal Curtis Bashaw to the coveted NJ Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). While holding the government position, Bashaw did deals with Sun National Bank, Vineland, that facilitated getting valuable Atlantic City property for $10, while Curtis got bigtime loans (and God knows what other goodies, perhaps hidden equity positions in the bank’s property development deals).
Bashaw was present ay meetings prior to McGs resigning over his “being gay.”
Most people say McG’s resignation speech was a sham to coverup massive government fraud. According to his autobio, McG appointed Golan Cipel to Homeland Sec to keep Cipel handy for sex.